Monday, August 2

Dams and weirs, a “permanent garbage”: this is the first international joint action to free rivers


It is not the first that the Alto Tajo Natural Park, in Guadalajara, is in the spotlight of the associations and groups that demand the elimination of dams and reservoirs to eliminate the fragmentation of the rivers and “bring them back to life.” In this place some obsolete dams are agglutinated that only represent an obstacle. A European study recently pointed to more than a million dams, reservoirs and weirs, most now obsolete, as obstacles that have made Europe’s rivers “the most fragmented in the world.” Among them, the Hoz Seca dam on the river of the same name in the Alto Tajo Natural Park stood out. Now it is the FreeTheRiverToday platform that starts this international campaign from the Molino Bajo weir, also in the Alto Tajo. It is the first global joint action against reservoirs in Europe: the Big Jump 2021.

A European study calls for the demolition of dams and reservoirs to “cure” rivers of their “ecological fragmentation”

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The petition to demolish this dam in Spain, promoted by AEMS-Rivers with Life, is part of the de WWF Living European Rivers in coordination with Dam Removal Europe (DRE). The overall objective of this initiative is to promote the demolition of “obsolete or obsolete obstacles” as occurs with many of these infrastructures in Spain. In this context, the Molino Bajo weir is the first barrier chosen in Spain to draw attention to what they consider to be a “serious environmental problem”.

Specifically, the annual Big Jump event is held until July 11 aimed at raising funds through crowfunding to remove dams in six European countries, in a simultaneous action led by WWF and shared by more than 300 European nature conservation organizations. . Last week it was knocked down an outdated barrier on the Hucava river in Slovakia, financed with funds from this same platform, showing that “citizen action can help restore Europe’s rivers”, they explain from the organization.

They estimate that in total there are at least a million barriers in rivers in 36 European countries, more than 150,000 of them without any use, but they remain standing while “deteriorating the health of rivers and contributing to their decline.” Thus, about 600,000 dams in Europe are small barriers less than two meters high, which may seem less harmful than mega dams, but “today we know that a series of small obstacles along the same riverbed can have a huge impact. cumulative on the health of rivers “.

This is the map offered by the Barrier Atlas on the AMBER project website, first complete inventory of the transversal obstacles registered in the rivers of Europe. You can download the information of all the “obstacles” of the rivers by typology. In this case, the dams and weirs of Spain appear:

According to the organization, rivers have “extraordinary resilience once they can run free again” and therefore “nothing can restore rivers as quickly and efficiently as removing dams.” These associations consider this to be a “one-time investment”, followed by significant permanent benefits, including the return of migratory fish (salmon, eels, sturgeons, etc.) and other animals and plants, better water quality, natural ability to reduce the impact of extreme floods and droughts, greater resistance to climate change, recovery of economic activities linked to the river.

César Rodríguez, Secretary General of AEMS-Ríos con Vida explains that the expiration of the concessions for numerous water uses in Spain offers “a great opportunity to begin to recover the ecological continuity and natural capital of our rivers.” It affirms that it is not only about the action of governments through the measures of the new hydrological plans 2021-2027 under the umbrella of the European Green New Deal, but also with the direct contribution of the people concerned. “We hope that this first barrier that we propose to eliminate in Spain is only the first of many that we can tear down, with the help of Big Jump and all European citizens.”

For her part, Eva Hernández, leader of WWF Living European Rivers, remarks that “old and useless” dams are “nothing more than abandoned cement that blocks the flow of rivers, up to a barrier per kilometer.” He calls them “permanent garbage” that must disappear and praises the Big Jump as an opportunity for citizens to act directly on it.

“Together we can help bring life back to our rivers by helping to remove outdated barriers and by sharing the news. We hope that European governments will follow this example and together exceed the target of 25,000 km of new free-flowing rivers set out by the Commission of the EU in its Biodiversity Strategy “.

Finally, Roberto Epple, founder of Big Jump and president of the European Rivers Network, specifies that the theme of the Big Jump edition this year 2021 is the rivers that flow freely. “Therefore, it is natural that we call on citizens to support the crowdfunding campaign for the elimination of dams to remove obstacles in our fields.”

This initiative leaves very significant data on the table. For example, only 40% of European surface water bodies (rivers, lakes, wetlands, transitional and coastal waters) are currently in good condition as required by the European Framework Directive and the loss of ecological connectivity has been identified as one of the main causes.

Studies carried out within the aforementioned Amber Promect estimate that there are at least 0.74 barriers for each kilometer of river. The conclusions of the work recently published in the journal ‘Nature’ confirm that the succession of small obstacles that are often unknown and much less conspicuous than large dams, can also cause “a serious fragmentation of river ecosystems”.

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